Distractions as Coping Mechanisms: Tools for Chronic Illness, Mental Illness, & Recovery by Candida Reece, writtenbydida.com
Using Distractions As Coping Mechanisms: Tools for Chronic Illness, Mental Illness, & Recovery

People usually think of distractions as something that hinders productivity, but there are some situations where they can actually be helpful. For many of the topics I write about, distractions can be used as coping mechanisms. As long as you’re using healthy distractions, they can be a great way to deal with chronic illness, mental illness, and addiction/recovery. They can even be helpful if you’re stressed about relationships, or even just life in general.

For chronic illness sufferers, distractions can help take your mind off the pain and symptoms you have to deal with. Some conditions create non-stop pain that you’ll do everything possible to handle. Distractions can be a welcome form of relief- even if only for a few minutes. For mental health, they can help ground you during bouts of anxiety, and even give you an outlet for processing and expressing emotions. Distractions can even be helpful when you’re trying to stay sober because they give you something to do in place of drinking or using.

I have one of those minds that can process WAY too much at once, so I tend to need multiple distractions- and even then, I can get bored with them easily. I also have to have a wide variety because there are times I can’t focus on certain ones, or times some are too physically taxing for me to use as a distraction. This means I have a pretty long list of things in my “distraction arsenal.”

Since there are times when different types of distractions are needed, I’ve included both distractions that require physical activity and the ability to focus, and things that can be done mindlessly, or from bed. Some can be a little of both, so look through the list for things that can work for you.


This will always be my number one distraction because it helps me process emotions. If I’m able to write about something, I can then control my reactions to that issue much easier than before, so it helps me in multiple ways. I can get into writing something and notice a couple of hours have passed, so it can be a good distraction. That’s IF I can focus enough to write something that makes any sense. I prefer to actually write my stuff out on paper with pen, even though that isn’t the “in” way to do things in this digital age. There’s just something about the perfect pen and a nice, fresh notebook that makes me happy and helps me write better.

There are many resources online that can help you learn to write to combat anxiety, pain, cravings, and a number of other issues. It can take a few tries to see it works for you, but it’s definitely worth the time.


Another great one when you’re able to focus. Getting lost in a book can be hours of distraction. When the pain doesn’t prevent me from focusing, I can get so sucked in that I read all night before I realize it. It can also be really helpful for writer’s block, or for helping me keep the creative momentum up when my hands aren’t letting me write. There are so many genres and mediums of the written word that pretty much anyone can find something they are into. Whether it be graphic novels, full novels, magazines, or online articles- it’s fairly easy to find something you can get interested in. Newspapers can keep you up on current events, magazines keep you up on trends and new developments in industries, blogs share personal experiences and suggestions- so many options to choose from. For books, I love the physical versions, but sometimes they just aren’t practical for my situation, so I tend to read a lot of ebooks, blogs, and other online media. There are different apps and devices to use available- just do a quick internet search to find plenty.

If you need more to read, there’s always my own writings. You can tap or click on this image if you want to check them out:

Writings about living with chronic illness, anxiety, & PTSD, as well as current events, addiction/recovery, mental health in general, relationships, parenting, and realistic finance with extreme money-saving techniques.


When I can’t focus well enough to read or write, movies and tv shows can be a great alternative. I know it isn’t really popular when you’re trying to promote a healthy lifestyle, but some of us need things we can do from bed. This falls into that category. Just like with reading, there are plenty of genres and different types of movies and shows to choose from. There are also a wide variety of services you can use to watch these things & some will even give you a free trial to see if it’s for you. Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Facebook Watch, & Netflix are some services- and there are even plenty of websites that allow you to stream things.


If you’re anything like me, you need some sort of noise going on, even if it’s just in the background. I don’t really get along too well with complete silence so music is really good for setting a tone for whatever I’m doing. This helps for if you’re wanting to put yourself in a certain mindset or work through specific emotions. You can find music that inspires, motivates, energizes, saddens-whatever you need. It’s such a versatile distraction that I always use it in conjunction with another distraction from this list. As with the movies, shows, and books- there are many genres, and many different services to use to listen. I’ve been using YouTube to watch videos lately, but Amazon also has a program for unlimited music.

I have a few suggestions for musicians, and other things I like, on my Good Stuff page that you can check out if you’ve run out of ideas. I am constantly adding things. I have no official affiliation, they are just great:

Volunteer Work

Get involved in something you believe in or you feel needs help. There are tons of already established organizations you can contact about volunteering, or you can find a cause in your own local community to support. Any time you need a distraction, put time into something productive towards your cause, or go where help is needed. This is something that can be done whether you’re needing to stay in bed, or are able to go out and get physically involved. Writing letters to legislators, councilmen, or anyone else that can affect change is still doing something productive. Join support groups and reach out to help others. There are many possibilities. Here is a link to a website that can match you up with volunteer opportunities in your area. Just to clarify, I do not have any affiliation with this organization. I found them through searching for ways to connect people with volunteer work in their area.

Arts & Crafts

These can be great for when you want to do something with your hands. You can find crafts that take a lot of effort, or crafts that take hardly any- so it can really be something you can do anytime if you plan ahead a bit and make sure you have the necessary supplies. Knitting, coloring books, painting, jewelry making- there are many, many options. If you need help with any of them, there are also plenty of tutorials on YouTube, step-by-step guides on Pinterest, and groups on Facebook that will help you learn.

Physical Activity

This covers so many things- from light stretching to martial arts, to full on marathon training. If you’re able to move at all, just getting up and moving around can help release different chemicals in your brain, relieving some anxiety and stress. Some people can even use exercise to help them work through negative emotions. Many people get involved in things like Martial Arts for the discipline they learn from it. Part of this is learning to process and control your emotions, so it can be helpful for more than just a distraction.

If you have a chronic illness, you have to be careful to not push yourself when you shouldn’t because you can just make yourself worse. There are stretches that are designed to be easier on the body you can use instead of the typical exercises fitness trainers recommend. Just do an online search for appropriate light exercises for your specific condition to get some examples of things to do. Physical activity doesn’t have to be traditional exercising or sports either. Cleaning the house, walking the dog, dancing- you can make it something fun or a task that you need to do. Here are a couple of links to some good resources on exercising with chronic illness. I have no affiliation with these sites. I found them while doing my own research on exercising and think they have some really good information:

5 Ways To Safely Work Out With Chronic Illness & Autoimmune Disease” on The Wellness Boulevard

How To Exercise With Chronic Illness…and When You Shouldn’t” on RawlsMD, written by an Occupational Therapist with an understanding of the difference between the “average” body and one with chronic illness.

Video Games/Apps

When you can’t do physical activity, apps you can download to your smartphone or other mobile devices can be a good alternative for working out your brain. There are so many different types of apps available that you can find them for just about any genre- fun, educational, skill-building, tools- something for anyone willing to learn how they work. Each device has some sort of app store you can download from, or you can visit a site from a browser, & download that way. Video games are so popular these days that many people already have some sort of video game console in their house, for their kids if no other reason. These can come in handy when you need to be distracted but can’t really do too much physical activity. You can find many games that are geared more towards adults than kids, so definitely look into it if it’s something you think may work for you.

I made a couple of pages with simple games to use for distraction, too, but they aren’t anything complicated because I leave that to the experts above. Here are those pages:

Dida's Distractions: This is an attempt to help you cope with pain, anxiety, cravings, or anything else you may need distracted from. Simple online games


These are another one of my ultimate distractions because I love animals. Many times, I like them more than people, so yeah- they definitely help me when I need distracted or supported. I have a dog that we rescued from going to the pound and a cat that showed up one day and decided it lives with us now. I’ve rescued several other dogs and found them homes. If I had the money and space, I’d have my own rescue. It’s pretty much my dream job besides being a writer. My two rescues and this blog (and any freelancing I can get) are the closest I’ve gotten- but hey, I’m trying 😉 Animals can be a great sense of comfort, protect us, be trained to perform special skills- they really are very versatile creatures. They can be a source of unconditional love and loyalty you just don’t seem to find in people anymore. So, go for a walk with your dog, or cuddle some puppies, or kittens, or even play with some reptiles if that is what you like. Using animals as a distraction is a great way to have a positive experience and even form a bond with your pet. If you could use some help with training your animal, I suggest Cesar Millan’s techniques because they are the most in line with my own thinking. I do not yet have an affiliation with them, although I am looking into their affiliate program because I really love his outlook on animal psychology.


Before you write this off as being too physical, take a moment to read. Yes, you can have a huge outside garden that is labor intensive, but you can also have a small indoor garden that you can use as a distraction from wanting to use or drink, anxiety, pain, or other symptoms. Not only can it be relaxing, but it can also be practical. You can save some money and eat healthier by growing some of your own spices, fruits, and vegetables. There are several types of foods you can grow inside all year round. Some you can start from seeds, but others all you need are table scraps from whatever it is. There are plenty of resources online to tell you what you can grow and how to do it, but these are the resources I like (I have no affiliation with these resources. I found them by using a keyword search):

9 Indoor Seed Starting Tips (and Common Mistakes to Avoid)”- on Morning Chores

The Total Beginner’s Guide To Indoor Gardening

This has turned into a pretty long post so I think I should probably go ahead and stop since I have the major areas covered. Within each of these suggestions are endless ideas you can use if you just do some research to tailor them to your own interests. Music that works for me may not do anything for you, and it can be the same with other things on this list. If the examples I have linked don’t interest you, do a search for things you like specifically within that same category and find your best distractions to use for coping with the cravings, never-ending symptoms, pain, or mental issues.

If you need more ideas for distractions, or for battling anxiety (they actually all kind of work for coping with pain and cravings, too,) you can read more on my resource pages for each topic:

Addiction Resources on Written by Dida
Resources: Personal stories, articles, information, tools, & support for chronic illness, mental health, addiction, talking to your kids, domestic violence, sexual conduct, relationships, money.
Anxiety on Written by Dida. Information, tools, & support for Anxiety Disorders

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Using Distractions As Coping Mechanisms: Tools for Chronic Illness, Mental Illness, & Recovery
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I'm 40 years old, have two children-13 and 19, and I now write full time in hopes of helping someone out there get through life❤ Visit my website at writtenbydida.com for resources for chronic illness, addiction recovery, mental health, and several other topics, but mostly it comes down to: life. If you're struggling and want somewhere to go to find resources, articles, stories, etc., to help you feel not so alone and lost, visit my page!

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